Song You Loved Until You Try It On Your End-game Headphones

Do you have a song that you used to like or love so much until you try it on your hi-fi gears? For me, it’s “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragon.

Yesterday, I watched @DEXCOM7 and @DarthPool show with @nugget, he mentioned that a song he likes doesn’t sound good on his Stellia, “Radioactive”. So I went and listened to it using my Verite and THX 789 amp and holy f***, that song is a mess and is a good example of a poorly mastered record.

Back when it was released, it was a massive hit and was overplayed on the radio. I loved that song. I listened to it on my car, on my earpods, on iPhone speakers, and on my then “audiophile” headphones - AT M50X. I loved the lyrics, I loved the vocal, I even loved the bass, it was so full and strong. I still occasionally listened to that song every now and then.

Yesterday, on my setup, it sounds like sh!t. The bass is muddy and over-boosted. There is a fuzzy texture on top of it. The bass track and vocal were compressed so much it sounded really off. To make sure the Verite was not the problem, I tried it with Aeolus and Elegia. The result is still the same. I tried to play it on different services (Youtube, Qobuz, Spotify …). The result is still the same. It only sounded kinda okay on my budget speaker setup.

After giving some thoughts, I believe there were a few factors that might have changed my perception on that song.

  • The gear: the Verite has excellent instrument and vocal separation, but it couldn’t separate that mess of a record. It also highlights all the flaws in that song.
  • My ears: listening to music through higher quality headphones has trained my ears to have better perception on the qualities of a song.
  • My taste: as I am able to listen to music critically, I appreciate well recorded music even more.

So, Radioactive is that one song that I used to love until I try it on my End-game headphones. What is yours? Please share.

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I think you nailed it on the head… on a couple of those things…but most specifically… I think that by acclimating to what “good” masters and music can sound like through an excellent chain, you are making it very difficult to go back to subpar musical masters.

So, yes, to all of your bullet points! It basically adds up to “once heard and appreciated, can’t be un-heard ;)” lol

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To be honey that was not my goal when I get into this hobby. I wanted to appreciate music more, not to look at them with judging eyes but I guess it’s impossible to turn back now.

I think I still like the song to a certain degree but I won’t try it on Verite again LOL

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I am with you on that one! I got into this hobby for gaming, didn’t think it would alter my approach to how I enjoyed music as much as it has!

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Guess what, January last year I was just looking for a good pair to play BF5/ Call of Duty/ FPS… Now I have the Verite. Unbelievable.

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I have a different take on this. Lots of good songs were ruined in production, and lots of good songs are hard to bear on low-end equipment. In some cases I’ve sought high and low to find a combination that would mitigate production and mastering issues (for years). Some flawed songs are fantastic for testing – as flawed – as when they sound decent I’ve found appropriate gear.

I just re-listened to Radioactive. I see it from several perspectives: (1) yes, violating quality and smoothness standards, (2) a product of car radio friendly mixes in the Loudness Wars era, and (3) a mild example of intentional noise rock. There are many technically worse songs that very much meant to be a noisy “mess.”

  • MGMT: Time To Pretend
  • Sleigh Bells: Crown on the Ground
  • My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (album)
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain’s entire catalog
  • Sonic Youth’s entire catalog

A couple other releases have some high-pitched whines that drive me crazy:

  • The Replacements: Let it Be (album) - e.g., song Answering Machine
  • Van Halen I: You Really Got Me (and much of the album)

With recent declines in production costs, many recent albums (could) sound pretty good. They have much deeper and more defined bass than any music as recently as the 1990s (i.e., moving from records to digital). The biggest mistake I’m seeing is way too intentionally bright high ends; this likely follows artist hearing loss and self-production.

  • Modest Mouse: Float On (and many other songs)
  • Phantogram: You Don’t Get Me High Anymore
  • Joe Satriani: What Happens Next (album)
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Thank you for sharing and I really like your take on those song that only sound good on high-end equipment. I too want to find those “hidden-gems” and give them the appreciation they deserve.

I totally agree on all 3 points you make on Radioactive. I will give those songs you mentioned a try. It’s important to have “good” examples and “bad” examples.

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Ignorance is definitely a bliss sometimes. Too bad we can’t unhear things, specially in the short term. :smile:

As far as of the example, I don’t have a specific. But pretty much all my old mp3 collection from late 90s – ripped in 128kbps (some even in 64 kbps). They do sound like sh*t in these days.

Cheers.

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Having gear that can call out crap music, or more accurately, poorly produced music, simply makes me appreciate the well produced stuff even more. There’s a number of songs I have gone back to listen to on my current setup that sound, well,… not good.

I agree thats it’s a learning to hear issue as well as having gear that can allow you to hear, but, mostly its just piss poor production. I imagine some of it is intentional to play more to the mass market audience who are happy with the usual ear buds - distorted, boomy bass and all that. I guess I understand that to an extent but I dont have to like it.

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At the risk of being labeled a heretic, I can come up with three general examples off the top of my head, ones that were surprisingly disappointing. Two caveats before identifying them: I still love the songs/pieces of music but now have to choose my headphones carefully to listen to some of them:

First, I recently got back into the Rolling Stones. I loved their music when I was younger but, over time, drifted away from them. When I went back, with decent gear, I was flummoxed to hear that lots of the early- to mid-60s albums (not to mention the compilations like Hot Rocks) sounded bloody awful. I suspect it has to do with mono recordings being mangled when converted to stereo. I’m basing all this on hearing only the CDs from the 90s onwards - note the godawful version of “Mother’s Little Helper” on Flowers - I need to go back to the vinyl or check out the mono releases. My cursor has been hovering over “add to cart” for the “The Rolling Stones in Mono Vinyl Box Set” off and on for a few months now.

Second, I’m a big fan but nearly all Radiohead albums sound pretty bad. (I know, feel free to tease me mercilessly). I realize the producer Nigel Godrich gets celebrated as all but the sixth band member (kind of annoyingly, it’s not as though we’re talking about George Martin as the “fifth” Beatle). Godrich unquestionably has been a significant influence on Radiohead and has done much to shape their music. But the sound quality of the albums can be awful - congested, compressed, muffled. Don’t even get me started on the drums (let alone the “cymbals”). The last album wasn’t so bad, though.

Last, I could mention quite a few classical music recordings, and not just live recordings. Compare the first few bars of two performances of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto. Lang Lang’s performance, with Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is wonderful (and it isn’t ruined with my HD 800). But I hear a lot of glare, if not haze and steeliness in the recording, especially compared with Martha Argerich’s performance with Kirill Kondrashin and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Hers is a celebrated interpretation. But for the purpose of this thread, in this second version, the instruments’ timbre sounds so much better even if it was recorded live and with more background noise. The brass alone draws out the contrast.

Edit for clarity

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Your post reminded me another example for the cause. Ohhh, I never forget you’re my classical music guru in this community, btw. :innocent:

Since I listen to a lot of streaming service at 90% of the time – I don’t have a library with lossless music as many do in the community – I’d also stay away from tracks that contain “(Remastered 20XY)” in the title. Big chances are that your lovely song will sound too bright/harsh/sibilant in your favorite headphone. :smile:

Cheers.

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Yes, absolutely! I use spotify for music discovery -simply because it had the biggest catalogue when I signed up - and I’ve noticed that seemingly every album is the latest remastered version. Good thing I’m not using it for critical listening!

One fun exception to this: The Stooges, I Wanna Be Your Dog, on the Gimme Danger soundtrack. It has the crunchiest electric guitar of all the versions they released (I use it as a test track).

Yes! The same goes for the Pixies’ entire catalog. All of these make for good stress tests of headphones. Thank goodness for my forgiving LCD2-C.

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Ohh, that was a general statement. There are many more exceptions. It’s more like a warning. No rules whatsoever.

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Absolutely - sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. I agree entirely.

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No sorries. You’re still my guru. :pray:

:rofl:

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I got a lot of song suggestions here. Thank you guys so much!

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I’ve found it a bit odd that though CD and hi res digital formats have the ability to capture greater dynamic range, that recoding and mixing has been about decreasing dynamic range to impart a greater perception of loudness… This results in loss of dynamism and subtlety and increases distortion… And makes many recordings sound worse on better more resolving equipment…all in the name of making things sound louder instead of better… Because that’s what sold

With loudness normalization on streaming services reversing the perceived benefit of this type of mastering, that’s not a competitive advantage anymore so hopefully things will change…

But I think this largely explains one of the reasons for the question that started this thread.

Ive seen a couple videos that cover this…

Here is one by Bob Katz that I find interesting… Describing how and why mixing and mastering proceeded down this perhaps counterintuitive path…

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I think you misunderstood a little bit about why I started the thread. I am aware of the reasons many modern songs sound so bad or poorly mastered. I just want people to share with me the song that they used love a lot and never recognized that they were poorly recorded/ mastered.

However, I share the same experience on the difference between the dynamic of old and new songs. I also appreciate your sharing of video on loudness war subject. If anyone here don’t know about it, give it a watch. It’s very fascinating.

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I guess we could turn this into a listing of songs we found poorly recorded, while also adding some that are terrific. Going against the grain, here are a couple to include in yet a third category; songs that sounded poor forty years ago, but somehow inexplicably got improved before coming to TIDAL (or any other streaming service). In the 1970s I really liked Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Blackfoot (they were extremely underrated, their guitarist grew up with the Lynyrd Skynyrd guys and played in that band for the first 10 minutes or so of its existence - he’s been with Skynyrd for the last ten or fifteen years but in the late 70s I loved Blackfoot). All the ELP records (LPs) had a hiss to them, every one; and the Blackfoot album sounded like someone had recorded it at home using pro-tools (although pro-tools wasn’t used as my comparison in 1978). But on TIDAL now, somehow all the ELP and Blackfoot albums sound pretty good. I don’t know what happened, but they are plenty listenable as opposed to… not.

As for some real good stuff, here’s a sheet I put in the box as I was shipping some headphones to a guy who purchased them from me:

For female vocals, the Kristin Andreassen CD is one of the absolute best-recorded CDs I own (nearly on par with the dozen or so I have from Mapleshade/Wildchild, but Pierre’s catalog is a bit eclectic). She is a terrific vocalist and some of her stories/lyrics are hilarious. (Try also “The Stupid Kiss” from when she was in a group called “Sometymes Why”.) If you listen to CDs seriously (I still find them 5% - 10% better than streaming, but it may depend on one’s transport and interconnects), hers and the Jennifer Warnes CD are must buys. (This from someone who purchases four or five CDs per year.) At all our local headphone meets, “The Ballad of the Runaway Horse” gets listened to every time someone comes in with new gear - as well as most of “Kiss Me Hello”. I never much listened to Allison Krauss until I saw her and Robert Plant on CMT’s Crossroads (one of the best shows ever on television), but have come to think of her as one of the better vocalists ever in Country Music (last two tracks of “Raising Sand” are good places to start).

The only comment I have about the Rolling Stones, and some (many) of the “old” recordings is, one needs to consider how differently people mixed groups back then: Drums not in the middle, two vocals on the left, two on the right… However, (after getting the right frame of mind) when I listen to recordings from the 1960s I listen for two things: do the instruments sound like real instruments (and vocals), and, do I feel like I could be in the (sometimes primitive) studio, listening to the musicians as they are recording? Two to try are Nancy Sinatra’s “Those Boots Were Made for Walkin’” from the album “Kid Stuff” (I like that recording the best) and The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” from “The Wrecking Crew”. (Be very careful not to mistakenly select The Meteors’ version of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin” from their Psychobilly Goes Pop" album! That’s a rabbit-hole all to itself!) The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” from “Waiting for the Sun” and “Love Her Madly” from LA Woman are two other examples of recordings where you can hear all the instruments recorded fairly well (not all muddled together - and the Doors recordings do feature a fair number of instruments), just not placed how we would do it today (or, since 1975). For a step past this, a bit of a digression forward from 1968, Bob Ezrin was one of the first “new” terrific producers starting in 1971; for something surprisingly good, skip the title track and listen to the remainder of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” album - it is extremely well done. (After the title track, the album is fairly cohesive: as with “We’ve Got the Beat” by the Go-Go’s, the (not yet named that) School’s Out album was pretty much finished but they thought they needed a single, so they wrote “School’s Out” and added it at the beginning.) Ezrin went on to work with Aerosmith, Kansas, Kiss… Taylor Swift… Andrea Bocelli, Kristin Chenoweth. And, oh, by the way, he produced Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.

OK, aren’t I supposed to be working? Hope someone found something here, interesting. I guess a new thread of “Songs/Albums we like which are also terrifically recorded” could be started… I’ve got to finish my taxes, what a downer.

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London Grammar is a group i really want to like, and it sounds great in my car…

It would be really good music if it didn’t sound compressed on my system.

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